- The controversial Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Bill has been passed by Zimbabwe's parliament and now only awaits the signature of President Robert Mugabe. The bill has caused widespread protest in Zimbabwe and abroad as it places severe restrictions on the activities of NGOs and human rights groups, in particular if they are financed from abroad.
Among the contentious issues in the NGO Act are the ban on foreign funding, the composition of a new government-led NGO Council, registration as well as the definition of governance, which most organisations say are "too broad" to encompass all civil society activities. The NGO Act specifically targets organisations that "promote and protect human rights".
When presented in September, the Bill caused widespread disbelief and protest among Zimbabwean NGOs. More than 20 Zimbabwean civic bodies and churches, said the draft was a repressive piece of legislation. The law would actually make government-related organisations of the country's NGOs and churches, the groups held.
While Zimbabwean NGOs today adopted a wait-and-see approach to the new Act, the human rights group Amnesty International strongly protested, saying it was "outraged". The law bans foreign human rights organisations, such as Amnesty, from working in Zimbabwe and could be used to close down local human rights groups.
- The law is a direct attack on human rights in Zimbabwe and should be immediately repealed, Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of Amnesty's Africa Program, urged today. "Preventing local NGOs from receiving foreign funding for human rights work would effectively mean the end of many vital human rights programmes, as there is so little local funding available," he added.
Amnesty said it believed that the legislation would be applied selectively, as had been the case with other repressive legislation introduced in Zimbabwe over the last four years. The Media Information Commission established by the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) had already overseen severe repression of independent media in Zimbabwe.
- If the NGO Act is enforced across the board, tens of thousands of people being assisted by NGO programmes could suffer, Mr Olaniyan said. "Reputable and dedicated human rights organisations in Zimbabwe provide vital medical and psychological care and legal advice to victims of human rights violations. Most victims have nowhere else to turn in a country where unemployment is above 70 percent and the health service has been severely eroded," he added.
Protests also came from foreign governments. The US State Department today condemned the new Zimbabwean legislation. Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said that "this law, if signed by President Mugabe, will stifle political debate in the exercise of civil liberties in Zimbabwe by preventing international human rights groups from operating there."
- In our view, this bill is an assault on civil society and an attempt to curtail political discussion in Zimbabwe, the US government spokesman said. "It is yet another sign that the government of Zimbabwe may not be serious about holding free and fair parliamentary elections in March 2005, and we call upon President Mugabe not to sign this bill. That's our view of it."
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.